Tuscany: Castello di Casole
View Room Service in a larger map
AddressLocalità Querceto, Casole d'Elsa 53031 Siena , Italy 866/963-5005 castellodicasole.com/
Watching the sunset over the hills from the western-facing infinity pool or Bar Visconti's terrace.
A visit to the on-site vineyard and winery for a tour and tasting of Castello di Casole's private Dodici label. Cooking and pizza-making classes are also offered at the winery.
Special Culinary Escapes packages include activities like truffle hunting in the surrounding countryside when in season.
- 41 luxury suites
- 24-hour room service
- Free Wi-Fi
- Essere spa and fitness center
- Yoga classes in the chapel
- Bicycles for exploring the property
- Ristorante Tosca
- Pazzia Pizzeria
- Bar Visconti
Castello di Casole sits at the top of a hill, ringed by the kind of views so breathtaking, and marked by so many shades of green, that the whole vista seems unreal. And then there's the castle itself: a compound of sturdy yet elegant thousand-year-old structures in tawny stone, meticulously rescued from dilapidation and decades of neglect by Timbers Resorts. (Timbers worked for seven years to restore the Castello to its current rustic splendor. The resort opened in summer 2012.) The property has 41 suites, each a little different, ranging from contemporary bi-level loft-style rooms that occupy a former limoneira where lemon trees were stored in winter to a suite with antique furnishings in the main building that—much to my delight—has its tower. I stayed in Casa del Prete, the former priest's quarters adjacent to the historic chapel (probably not a honeymoon suite, I joked) from the days when the estate was a working farm housing several hundred people. I loved my spacious living room, bedroom, and bathroom, all outfitted with old world flair.
Though it's just an hour from Florence and 20 minutes from Siena, this is the kind of place where you could plonk down for a week and never leave, spending days by the infinity pool or exploring the 4,200 acres that surround the castle (encompassing a game reserve, a vineyard and a winery) and getting familiar with the property's two excellent restaurants (the elegant Tosca and more casual Pazzia Pizzeria) and chic Bar Visconti by night.
The dining options at Castello di Casole showcase the surrounding area's extraordinary cuisine. I found myself eating salumi at nearly every meal, loading up on deep-red marbled stuff made from the famous cinghiale (wild boar) at Tosca's excellent breakfast buffet, then ordering it by the plateful or on top of a wood-fired pie at Pazzia Pizzeria later in the day. That is, of course, when I wasn't fixating on porcini mushrooms, which had just come into season during my early October stay. At one memorable luncheon at Pazzia, I devoured a bowl of pasta that I'm still thinking about, weeks later: homemade tagliolini with a cream sauce of velvety porcini harvested that morning, by far best way I've ever had them. One evening at Tosca, I decided to put myself into the chef's hands. The parade of dishes that followed—fresh bread with the estate's own olive oil, porcini paired brilliantly with scallop and lobster, artichoke risotto, Tuscan steak with foie gras—made me glad that I did.
Occasionally, in the midst of this pastoral eden, a craving for citified glamour would set in, and I'd duck into the property's Bar Visconti, a stylish, Art Deco cocktail bar that slings a mean Negroni. The boîte is named for filmmaker Luchino Visconti, a jet-setting noble who lived at the castle in the 1960s and reportedly brought stars like Elizabeth Taylor to its then-crumbling grounds. —Jenny Miller
In the Area
- Caffe Casolani: This café and osteria is situated on a narrow street in the tiny hilltop hamlet of Casole d'Elsa, the nearest town, about a 10-minute drive from the Castello. Lunch is served à la carte, while dinner is a set menu of whatever's fresh and seasonal that day—think minestrone soup with local vegetables; pico in duck sauce; guinea fowl with juniper; or wild boar. Reservations recommended. 41 Via Casolani, 53033 Casole d'Elsa; 0577/9487-3334; caffecasolani.com
- San Gimignano: This perfectly preserved medieval walled city, a 30 minute drive from the hotel, is sometimes called the "Manhattan of the Middle Ages" because of the skyscraper-like towers visible from a distance; there were 72 at one time and now only 14 remain. It's apt to be overrun with tourists but is still worth seeing. Stroll the streets and pop into the many food shops to purchase local products like rounds of pecorino preserved in olive leaves, fennel-spiked finocchiona sausages, saffron, or jars of wild-boar ragù.
- Winery visits: Castello di Casole is situated next to the Chianti wine region, making it easy to spend an afternoon sampling vino. The pace is slow here, so plan to visit two or three wineries in a go. Poggio Amorelli, run by trained enologist Marco Mazzarini, pours some astoundingly good wines, including a Chianti Classico Riversa from 2008 that's soft, round and lightly sweet. Don't miss sampling the buttery cinta senese salami that's for sale in Poggio's shop. Another winery, Brancaia, is situated gorgeously next to its hillside vineyard and run by Swedish-born vintner Barbara Widmer; try the Tre, with deep berry and vanilla notes. See chianticlassico.comand chianti.com for more information.
- Florence: Just 45 minutes north of Castello di Casole, Florence is an easy day trip. Visit the Mercato Centrale for a glorious cornucopia of every regional food imaginable, from bread to hulking mushrooms to the city's famous lampredotto (cow's stomach) sandwich. For a sit-down meal, try the posh and newly Michelin-starred Ora d'Aria which offers a small-plates tasting of dishes like caramelized tomato with burrata and sublime Piedmontese beef tartare. It's just a few blocks from the famous Ponte Vecchio. Ora d'Aria, Via dei Georgofili 11R, 50122 Firenze; +39 055 200 16 99, oradariaristorante.com
- Siena: Some call Siena Italy's loveliest medieval city. Spend some time wandering the towers and churches of its center and stop in for a glass of wine at the Enoteca Italiana, a 90-year-old institution for promoting Italian wines, housed dramatically inside the Medici Fortress. Fortezza Medicea, Piazza Libertà 1, 53100 Siena; +39 0577 228 888 enoteca-italiana.it